“Well this is my declaration/And I’m sorry Roger Daltrey, but FUCK my generation”. That’s the lyric of the year right there, and in the album of the year stakes Paid Salvation is pretty close to the top spot too. Tasmanian punks A Swayze & The Ghosts’ debut is perfectly formed, a riotous, impassioned set of garage/punk that rails against the evils of our age (pro-lifers, misogyny, climate change, the media, and pretty much everything else), without metaphorically waving a big flag reading ‘WE ARE WOKE’ (I see you IDLES) nor ever forgetting that rock & roll is supposed to be, first and foremost, all about a good time.
So yes, you can nod along thoughtfully to opener ‘It’s Not Alright’’s tale of how increasingly difficult it is to get an abortion in Australia, or you can leap around like a loon to its early Hives garage rock while shouting along to “Sheeeeeee….SHE DON’T WANNAAAAA”; you can marvel at the storytelling on blue collar kitchen sink drama ‘Mess of Me’, or wave your pint in the air while bellowing the chorus; and you can play spot-the-musical-reference throughout, whether its the classic 1970s NY punk of The Ramones and Television, the blues-punk of The Blues Explosion, or the early 00s rock revival of The Strokes, The Vines or the aforementioned Hives, whilst simultaneously being thrilled by the sheer energy, tunefulness and general brilliance of it all.
Paid Salvation’s eye on the past is less a retro thing, and more a statement of frustration with Swayze’s current generation, as articulated so wonderfully on ‘Connect to Consume’, which bemoans the fact that we’ve taken the huge opportunity that the internet and social media offered for collectivity and coming together, and instead reduced its potential to consumerism and self-obsession. “I’m sorry for the youth, I’m sick of everything we stand for” he rages. “Find the perfect field to take photos of ourselves – for what?”. A little harsh perhaps – his generation is probably more politically aware and inclined to protest than mine was – but the righteous anger is thrilling and visceral all the same.
And lest I’m making Paid Salvation seem like some kind of punk revival fest, the album takes an abrupt leftfield lurch at the end. ‘Beaches’ is an ecowarrior anthem set to the bluesy lurch of fellow Aussies The Birthday Party; ‘Cancer’ is blistering electro-punk; whilst the closing ‘Evil Eyes’ is a sub two-minute burst of Nuggets-style psych-garage that cleanses the palate and has you rushing to listen to the album all over again. Terrific stuff.